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Cam Newton and the Adult Learning Model


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#1 teeray

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Posted 01 March 2013 - 11:55 AM

Cam Newton and the Adult Learning Model

And how it affects his "clutchness"



As some of you guys know I play a lot of poker and I have been successful in the sense that I win more than I lose and have been able to grind out a living from it. I always try to consume as much literature on poker as I can (I have a library full of books about poker in my office), so at this point there isn’t anything about poker strategy that I probably don’t already know. That has made it harder for me to find new literature that would actually be helpful for improving my game.

Then the other day I came across a book called “The Mental Game of Poker” by Jared Tendler, who was mental coach for many golfers and now for poker players. It isn’t a poker strategy book, but it is a book about dealing with tilt, confidence, and coping with variance. I thought “This could be really helpful” so I bought the book.

In the second chapter of the book the author talks about the Adult Learning Model. After reading it I couldn’t help but think about the Panthers and Cam Newton and thinking that it may help to explain some of the things I have said about Cam and his development.

The Adult Learning Model (ALM) has 4 basic levels of learning certain skills:

1) unconscious incompetence- basically you don’t even know what you don’t know. You are blind to the ways that you lack skill

2) conscious incompetence- you know what you don’t know, but doesn’t mean that you have skill. But you know why you don’t have skill

3) conscious competence- this means you have put in a lot of work and repetition, and as long as you think about what you have learned to gain these skills you remain competent. If you forget, or don’t focus on it, you can become incompetent again

4) unconscious competence- you have learned a skill so well that it is totally automatic and requires no thinking. It is the Holy Grail of learning.

Now, playing QB isn’t a skill itself, it is a conglomerate of skills that are developed and learned over time. I have talked about Cam Newton learning some of the basic skills of playing QB, which other QBs like Kaepernick, Luck, RG3, Dalton, and Wilson have already acquired because of their multiple years as starters in college. Cam is still in the process of learning some of those things or more accurately, he has learned them, he knows it, and if he focuses on those things he is very good.

Basically what I am saying is that Cam Newton is consciously competent at a lot of skills that other QBs who had more experience in college are already unconsciously competent at. Whether that is footwork, fundamentals, checking down, managing the offense, reading defenses, etc, right now Cam is good at those things when he focuses and thinks about them.

It also explains why he may be having more trouble than some of those guys in “clutch” situations, which I will get to in a moment

This is why Cam’s potential is so exciting to me. There is an actual limit to how much the human mind can think about in a given moment. And as certain skills that Cam have move from conscious competence to unconscious competence, it literally frees up space in his mind to process and think about other things in those given moments. It is the literal definition of “the game slowing down”. So even though right now he is at worst on par with all of the aforementioned QBs, his mind actually has more room to grow and expand than those other QBs. That is why his upside is so much better than theirs in my opinion.

That brings me to his “clutchness”. I have said several times that Cam’s ability to close games will improve as he gets more experienced. Some of the Cam detractors have pointed out that other aforementioned QBs have similar NFL experience and have had more success in late game situations than Cam and therefore Cam Newton is a “choker”. The third chapter of the book talks about emotions and I think it will help articulate what I mean.

This part is fascinating (at least to me but I am kind of a nerd).

The brain is organized in a hierarchy of three different levels. The first level has all the most important functions of the brain (breathing, heart rate, balance). It also is where unconscious competence is stored. The second level is the emotional system. The third level is higher brain functions (thinking, planning, awareness, etc).

When the second level of the brain (emotions) becomes overactive, it shuts down the third level or higher brain functions. It doesn’t completely shut it down; the amount of thinking lost is directly proportional to your level of emotion. So the higher your level of emotion is past the threshold, the less you can think.

So what does all that have to do with Cam’s “clutchness”? The higher the amount of stress and emotion, the harder it is for a player to access his higher brain functions. That means that it is harder to process information, and thus, it negatively affects you conscious competence. It becomes harder to think and make decisions.

So when there are “clutch” situations, that naturally causes an increase in stress and emotion, Cam’s brain prevents him from accessing his conscious competency as easily as he did in the other parts of a football game.

However, what emotions don’t affect is the first level of your brain’s hierarchy (breathing, balance, etc). This also happens to be where unconscious competency is stored. So when your emotions become overactive, it has zero affect on Cam’s unconscious competency.

As more and more of Cam's skills move from conscious competency to unconscious competency, the less and less stressful and emotional game situations will affect his play. And it also may help explain why other QBs who had more experience starting in college, are having more success in those types of situations. It is because they have more skills that they are unconsciously competent in due to their experience, so that situation does not affect them as much.

This in my mind confirms what I have been trying to say, when I say I am not worried about Cam’s performance in “clutch” situations right now. As he becomes more experienced, and more and more skills transition from conscious competency to his unconscious competency, it will have no affect on those skills in those stressful and emotional situations, and will free his mind to process and focus on other information.

I realize this was a little long, and I am sure there will be some tl;dr, but I found this to be fascinating and wanted to share my thoughts on this with you guys.

Discuss…..

#2 Fiz

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Posted 01 March 2013 - 11:59 AM

Not a word

#3 Gucci Mane

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Posted 01 March 2013 - 12:05 PM

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#4 Delhommey

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Posted 01 March 2013 - 12:09 PM

Read "Thinking, Fast and Slow"

#5 OneBadCat

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Posted 01 March 2013 - 12:25 PM

I enjoyed reading your post but one could just as easily say that Cam didn't close games last season because of bad luck.

I mean the 4th and 1 fumble against Atlanta was BS, almost madden-esque. Against Seattle Cam threw a dud in the endzone, but that could have been nerves or anything else. We really don't know.

Then if the refs don't cheat us against Dallas thats 3 wins that would have put us in the playoffs and all the sudden Cam is great leader, yadayada.

#6 teeray

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Posted 01 March 2013 - 12:33 PM

I enjoyed reading your post but one could just as easily say that Cam didn't close games last season because of bad luck.

I mean the 4th and 1 fumble against Atlanta was BS, almost madden-esque. Against Seattle Cam threw a dud in the endzone, but that could have been nerves or anything else. We really don't know.

Then if the refs don't cheat us against Dallas thats 3 wins that would have put us in the playoffs and all the sudden Cam is great leader, yadayada.


No doubt. And Cam was better in those situations this year than he was as a rookie, and I suspect he will get better and better in those situations as his career progresses.

There are several reasons he doesn't have more comeback wins and game winning drives that isn't just about Cam. I agree.

#7 SCMunnerlyn1

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Posted 01 March 2013 - 12:34 PM

Pied and repped for taking the time and I did read the whole thing. Don't have anything to offer on the subject though.

#8 Jai.

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Posted 01 March 2013 - 12:47 PM

Awesome read.

#9 Catweisers

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Posted 01 March 2013 - 01:37 PM

Great Read and all that read it can take it and use it where ever they go in life. On football field or off it.
Thanks and I think Cam will be better this season too.

#10 redbuddha

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Posted 02 March 2013 - 03:06 AM

Very nice read! Well written and thought provoking! Could be post of the year!

#11 Leeroy Jenkins PhD

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Posted 02 March 2013 - 08:17 AM

As a neuropsychologist, I find this is a gross oversimplification of basic cerebellar function, limbic system function, and frontal lobe/executive function. Also the ideas behind conscious and unconscious skill development are more attributable to the cerebellar functions of muscle memory performed by the cerebellum as well as attributes like processing speed, thought inhibition, and divided attention that are cerebral functions. In no way does learning and mastering a skill move it's "housing" down to the brainstem layer or anywhere other than where it's operation takes place. As for emotion, what I would hypothesis is happening is stress and the affects of stress on our neurotransmitters and hormones like serotonin, dopamine, noradrenalin and cortisol. How do these transmitters affect processing speed, divided attention etc.

#12 Leeroy Jenkins PhD

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Posted 02 March 2013 - 08:26 AM

Teeray, have you ever read a book called Blink by Malcome Gladwell? I think it is applicable to poker though not intended for that purpose

#13 panthers55

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Posted 02 March 2013 - 11:35 AM

The concept of unconscious competence as it relates to emotions and confidence doesn't really apply IMO. I think it does apply to skill development and physical competence like muscle memory on the physical end of things. And you could stretch it to include develops better recognition of defenses and knowing where the weaknesses are. Knowing where to throw the ball and where the matches favor you. Repetition in practice against the scout team so when he sees it in the game, he has some previous familiarity which how to attack it. I would claim that this is really more in the arena of conscious competent than in the unconscious competence. And I would not agree that being confident in a situation is a function of unconscious competence or automatic response. Emotions aren't automatic and don't exist outside of context. Thoughts and cognitions shape our emotions which are best mastered when we manage them through positive self talk bolstered by experiential success. Success reinforces your confidence as you feel competent to handle a situation or solve the dilemma. Your confidence or feeling of competence are conscious and ever changing as the game unfolds and you experience continued success or failure. Your thoughts about the circumstance within which you are operating dictate how much stress or anxiety you experience based on how you feel about your competence to overcome the challenges..

I think that the concept of choking" or having the "yips" like he did against Seattle when he alligator armed that throw in the endzone is totally in the conscious realm or at least should be. The issue of "clutchness" is really more psychological than it is physical. A matter of emotional maturiity more than unconscious competence. Newton is a physical phenom and a quick study such that skills are not really the issue. That short armed throw against Seattle had nothing to do with muscle memory or automatic response. It is the same reason that Smitty said the wide open passes are the hardest to catch. Football is largely mental and emotional. You maximize your ability by controlling and harnessing your emotions. If you can't or don't, you struggle because at critical situations you panic or choke and make poor decisions which can't be overcome by physical skill.

There is a whole area of psychology called rational emotive thinking concerned with explaining how thinking controls our emotions which then influence our behaviors. Cam struggled because he didn't feel competent running Chud's very complicated offense. He was required to think more which slowed his reactions which allowed the defense to react.. As we simplified the scheme he could think quicker, have less to key on so he could react faster more automatically. As this improves in efficiency with repetition it appears unconscious and automatic but it isn't. When you couple indecision and poor success with moodiness and negative thinking and it is perfectly understandable why he has struggled at times. He had to modify his thinking to control his emotions soo he could continue to develop emotionally as well as technically and physically.

#14 BigSyke

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Posted 02 March 2013 - 11:42 AM

so this is all about cam being clutch. i don't see much wrong with the guy in clutch time. lot of times he drives down the feild and just cant get it in at the last minute. i think he needs more weapons and better play calling in the 4th quarter. also the defense never helped out in tough situations.

i think newton is talked about bad because he is on the worst team in the nfl. thats where the no1 pick goes so i give him an A+ because this dude could have gave up because sometimes its looks like the panthers move.....a little slow and don't make the best choices when it comes to picking players and coaches. newton has zero defense when it matters...i looked up stats.... against manning they are bad....against palmer they are good.....against quinn they are bad lol the defense is just too wishy washy....to be called a great d. the d line is getting real good though...everything else is below avg. sorry.

most important he needs an oline....of course you are not going to do good in clutch times when you cant have time to throw...like i said before manning and brady have time to THROW.....joe flacco was sitting back most of that playoff comeback to win....he had time for jones to run ALL the way down field then throw....GIVE NEWTON A STOUT OLINE AND YOU WILL SEE SUPER MAN PRIME.

#15 Jackofalltrades

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Posted 02 March 2013 - 01:08 PM

I'd destroy you in poker.

That is all.


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